Following the independence referendum held in Catalonia in October a wave of protests hit the region after the refusal of Madrid to recognize the results of the plebiscite. A number of politicians advocating independence, as well as local activists were detained after the vote.
"Prosecutions for ‘rebellion’ that could lead to lengthy jail sentences raise serious risks of deterring wholly legitimate speech, even if it is controversial and discomfiting… Freedom of expression is the cornerstone of every free and democratic society, and it will remain so long after the current political controversies subside," David Kaye said, as quoted by the UN Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner (OHCHR).
The UN expert added that he was concerned over the fact that potential charges of rebellion for the actions that had not resulted in violence could "interfere with rights of public protest and dissent."
The autonomous region of Catalonia held a referendum on independence on October 1, in which over 90 percent of the 2.26 million Catalans, who participated in the vote, supported the region's secession from Spain. Madrid called the vote illegal and subsequently imposed direct rule over the autonomous region and dismissed its government.